Sandro Rosell is to step down as Barcelona president on Thursday evening because of his role in the club’s increasingly scrutinised purchase of Neymar last summer, according to widespread reports in the Spanish and Catalan press.
An emergency board meeting has been called for 5 p.m. GMT, at which Rosell is now expected to tender his resignation. Current vice-president Josep Maria Bartomeu will reportedly take the top role at the Camp Nou ahead of possible presidential elections next summer.
Barca and Rosell have so far always maintained that they paid "just" 57 million euros for the player, while others suggest the deal was for as much as 95 million euros and the player and his family have received 51 million euros in various fees and commissions.
The issue became increasingly serious this week after it was confirmed that a Madrid court had accepted a petition from Barca socio Jordi Cases to look into the transfer, launching a formal investigation amid claims that different versions of the contracts involved exist.
Catalan paper La Vanguardia claimed on Thursday morning that Rosell was considering stepping down, but many observers then thought this was unlikely and just part of the many "leaks" from on all sides which have characterised the recent Neymar saga.
But Mundo Deportivo -- the local sports paper usually very well briefed by the Rosell camp -- was reporting by lunchtime that after a meeting with his closest associates at the club, Rosell had decided to step down due to ‘strong pressures and threats’ that he and his family have faced in recent times.
Other outlets have speculated that the former Nike executive might take time out to fight the case and then return, but Mundo Deportivo says his resignation will be “irrevocable.”
Rosell has always maintained neither he nor the club did anything wrong in the Neymar transfer, which they were proud of completing despite interest in the player from Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester City.
There is no suggestion that any Blaugrana executive personally benefited from the complex deal, however Rosell and other club executives could potentially be called to testify in a Madrid court, and tax authorities in Spain and Brazil are likely to be following the proceedings closely.
Former Barca president Joan Gaspart told la Xarxa that in his view Rosell would be within his rights to stay on as president and defend his actions in court.
"Rosell does not have to resign,” Gaspart said. “There is no proof of anything yet, the courts are there for that. We should let the courts investigate and I hope that everything has been done clearly.”
The current Barca board’s mandate ends in June 2016, and Rosell had previously said he planned to stand for re-election.
The club’s board earlier this week announced plans for a 600 million euro renovation of their Camp Nou ground, which the present regime was expecting to still be in position to oversee.